Baby Toys & Baby Gifts - Birth & Up
What are the best newborn and infant toys? Up until the 20th Century, playing with toys was not fully correlated with learning and development for infants. Early – and perhaps homemade – newborn toys were rattles made from silver or coral – not a soft material. Other early devices to aid with infant development included walking stools and cradleboards. Cradleboards were used by some Native American tribes to carry a baby by swaddling it tight onto a board to be carried on the mother’s back or propped up as she worked. But, when the baby was propped up, watching the mother was a source of visual stimuli for the baby.
A 19th Century German educator, Friedrich Froebel came to the conclusion that children learn best through play. Playtime is now a standard part of daily care, but what kinds of skills are introduced and reinforced by play and newborn toys? Socialization and values of the prevailing culture, to be general, but this includes physical and mental skills and acquiring cultural expectations. The basic forms of play between a parent and a child are singing songs, laughing, examining objects, and playing peek-a-boo.
In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, infant and newborn toys became used as an aid in playtime to help with learning, development, and stimulation. Presently, newborn developmental toys change with each life stage. Although some infants grow with their toys during their first twelve months and use a toy past its development time, toys for stimulating the current stages of development always progress based upon any new and acquired physical abilities.
For newborns, the best toys gently stimulate the early senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Some toys include unbreakable crib mirrors and mobiles. When an infant’s vision starts developing more, toys with high contrast colors should be introduced. In the past, toys in bright primary colors were considered best, but some recent toy manufacturers have been designing infant toys and pictures in black and white and sometimes red. Even patterns and mobile objects come in black and white. Playmats and floor gyms also stimulate these senses. Before a newborn can sit up, they can look up and reach at the toys and mirrors, and, once they can sit up, they can touch and hold the toys, which sometimes make various sounds or music. Rattles, musical toys, and soft balls and blocks are also considered developmental toys at this stage.
By the end of the first year, an infant has usually learned the skills of crawling and making sounds. Developmental toys for this stage include stacking cups, plastic telephones, board books, blocks, and push-pull toys. Books also function as a learning toy at this point. Whether a board book for a crib, a bath book, or a cloth book, all have bright, visually stimulating pictures and many also have various textures and sounds to encourage touch and hearing.